It was almost five years ago that I first ran across Mission US and wrote a quick blurb about it.
“Designed specifically for the educational market and aligned to national standards, Mission US is a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through a free interactive game with extensive teacher materials and resources. Students playing the game will walk away with a solid knowledge of the pre-Revolution period. And for the most part, the game does a good job of engaging kids in thinking and asking questions.”
At the time, there was just the one game teachers and kids could play:
“For Crown or Colony?” puts players in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. They encounter both Patriots and Loyalists, and when rising tensions result in the Boston Massacre, they must choose where their loyalties lie.
In the years since, Mission US added:
In “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” players become Little Fox, a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is changed by the encroachment of white settlers, railroads, and U.S. military expeditions. As buffalo diminish and the U.S. expands westward, players experience the Cheyenne’s persistence through conflict and national transformation.
And just this week, they’ve added a fourth game. Called “City of Immigrants,” players navigate New York’s Lower East Side as Lena, a young Jewish immigrant from Russia. Trying to save money to bring her parents to America, she works long hours in a factory for little money. Should she go on strike to protest conditions, and risk losing her job?
The Mission US folks claim that their missions are designed to improve the learning of American history by students in grades five through eight. But I think this last game (and even Cheyenne Odyssey mission) work well with the scope and sequence in most high schools. But . . . I haven’t played all the way through it yet so will leave it to you HS folks to give us some feedback.
Mission US games are web-based tools, designed to be played in a browser. So it can be difficult getting them to work on most mobile devices. You can also download the software and play offline if that works best for your situation. Either way allows for saving of progress along the way.
The cool thing about Mission US is their Educators page. This section includes a variety of materials to support use of the missions by teachers, including overview and background information, standards alignments, activities, and primary sources, plus videos of teachers using Mission US with their students. It’s the videos that I think are especially powerful – giving you a chance to see what this looks like in practice.
The other powerful piece of the teacher guides is the sweet list of primary and secondary sources included in each guide. So even if you’re a school with a lack of tech or are using iPads for your online access and are limited playing the online game, you can use the documents and activities to recreate the learning experience. It won’t have the emotional power of the simulation but you’ll still get the historical thinking parts of the experience.
And while the games are engaging and fun, in the end having kids think critically is the important thing.